PETALUMA – Napa Valley 1839 FC finished off its inaugural season on Saturday, with the 1839’s falling 3-0 to Sonoma County Sol FC in the third meeting of the Wine County Derby at Casa Grande High School.
The Sol clinched a National Premier Soccer League Western Conference playoff spot with the victory. The powerhouse squad, based in Sonoma County, was at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time in over six years, with Napa looking to play spoilers in the final match of the regular season for the Golden Gate Conference.
“Our team at the beginning of the season was a mystery,” head coach Jesus Medina said. “I feel our train of momentum is heading forward.”
Napa Valley 1839 FC ended its first year in fifth place, with a record of 1-6-5 and picked up its lone victory against the conference champions CD Aguiluchos USA. The 1839’s achieved more than the East Bay FC Stompers did in their first season back in 2011; the team based in San Lorenzo ended its inaugural season without winning a contest, ending at 0-12-0.
“It may sound absurd to say, but I am happy with what happened this year,” Medina said. “I got comments before the year. They told me be prepared to give up three to seven goals a game. I said if that is how it is going to be, then we will be ready.”
The 1839’s gave up 25 goals for the season, slightly above two goals per game. Medina admitted that Napa Valley allowed too many easy goals for the season, which ended up being its downfall this campaign.
“If we had just given up less silly goals this season,” Medina said, “there is a good chance we would have made playoffs.”
Saturday’s third installment of the Wine County Derby was the most lopsided on the scoreboard of the three matches, with the two previous meetings for the year having ending in a draw. This bubbling rivalry has the potential to have some great showings from the players and the crowd, with the two squads only 24 miles away from each other.
“We have a team now and we have set the standard for next season,” Medina said. “Our standard is high and we have a solid foundation. We now have to refine and we will only improve.”
The Sonoma Sol has quickly turned around its season, with the West Coast power outscoring its opponents in their last three games 11-1. The defending NPSL national runner-ups have been in their best form as of late and showed it on Saturday, in what was a must-win game for the Sol.
Sonoma was on the attack for most of the contest, with the Sol outshooting the 1839’s 18-10 for the evening. It didn’t take long for the Sol to take the lead, with Omar Nuno scoring his team-high seventh goal of the season in the 13th minute of the contest.
Napa Valley 1839 FC had a new face in goal for the final game of the season, with Daniel Villalpando taking over net minder duties from veteran Javier Valdez-Raya. Villalpando found out a couple of minutes from the start that he would be making his first professional start, with the 19-year-old St. Helena native recently joining the team.
The young goalkeeper showed his potential right before halftime when Sonoma received a penalty kick in the 44th minute. Nuno looked to add a second goal on the day, but Villalpando blocked the shot.
Villalpando has a solid chance of being a key piece for next season for the 1839’s.
“(Villalpando) now has the taste of the pressure,” Medina said. “He knows he is capable of keeping up with this level.”
Sonoma took full control halfway through the second half, as the Sol’s Brenton Frame turned a poor clearance into a fast break, putting it over Villalpando’s head for the second score of the contest.
Napa Valley 1839 FC brought 17 players to the match in Petaluma and Medina got everyone into the game. Many of the players on Saturday were from the Napa Valley, with eight of the 11 starters originally from the surrounding Napa area.
The 1839’s are also one of the youngest teams in the Golden Gate Conference, as many key contributors for the Napa squad are under 18 years old.
“We are a squad that has proven that we can play with the best teams in our league,” Medina said. “The young players are only going to get better with more experience.”